“I choose to share the word “JIYAN” (=LIFE in Kurmanji). My family and I left Syria because we wanted to live. It’s as simple as that.”- Hani, 15 years old.
Diyar, originally from Qamishli (Syria), wanted me to paint the word “Ambition” on his house. He told me that his ambition was to study chemistry. At the moment he’s finishing his schooling here in the refugee camp, but next year he will have to go to university in Erbil or abroad. He’s hoping to move to Newcastle (UK), where his aunt lives, but it’ll be several months before he is given the green light. Wherever he’ll be next year, Diyar will remain ambitious and will keep moving forwards.
“Union” was the word chosen my the inhabitants of Altos De La Florida, a low income neighbourhood in Soacha, near Bogotá. Thank you to the volonteers and the locals who helped me paint this house. And thank you to the French Embassy in Colombia, who invited me here.
Sameena helped us a lot with the “Muskan” mural by spending hours on small details. For our last wall before we leave Mumbai, she would like us to paint the word “Trust” on the square. I’ve painted 123 words in slums of 10 different countries and it’s the first time I’m going to paint “Trust”. It’s also a great word to describe our relationship with the people of Phule Nagar.
“Itcha” means “wish” in Hindi. The word was chosen by one of our good friends in the slum, Arbaz, a 17-year old college student. He was big dreams of traveling the world one day!
We painted Arshad’s house without telling him. He’s a very friendly guy, and we wanted to paint a little surprise for him. We asked his neighbours and family to choose a word and they went for “Muskan” (which means “Smile” ). He works at a hotel in central Mumbai and he was delighted to see our work when he came home! All smiles in Phule Nagar!
This is Lakhan, one of our good friends from Phule Nagar. He’s deaf and can’t speak at all, not even sign language. He’s never been to school and therefore he can’t read or write either. In fact, apart from a few hand gestures he can’t communicate with anyone. He spends his days selling packets of water around the local train station. His mother boils water to make it drinkable and puts it in plastic packets which she then pops into the fridge. For the past few weeks we’ve been living off this water!
Each morning, Lakhan comes into our house and wakes us up by pulling our feet, a way of saying it’s time to go to work. Every evening, when the sun sets, he comes over to us and gestures that the day is over and we should pack our gear. Then he comes over to our house after dinner and we have a little drawing session. His drawings are those of a brain almost untouched by culture. Unique and spontaneous!
A year ago we were working in Gagalingin, a slum in the north of Manila, Philippines. Here’s a short documentary of our project there:
“Peace” is a word that everyone here agrees with, whether it be in the neighbourhood itself, or in the rest of Bogota. The mural includes 16 different houses and we chose the bridge that crosses the ring road as the point of view to see the whole piece. This bridge links the community with the rest of Bogota and hundreds of people walk across it each day.
Hopefully people from other parts of the city will also want to stand on the bridge to look at the art, and even cross the bridge to visit an isolated yet very warm community.
Thanks to everyone who helped us make this possible and special thanks to the Universidad de la Javeriana and its volunteers.
For one month we painted in Favela Santo Amaro, a vulnerable community situated close to the center of Rio de Janeiro, between Catete and Gloria. It’s a very tight community with people who have a real sense of living together. People understood the project and gave us many words to paint straight away. Some of the youth who don’t go to school spent some time with us and help us paint the murals.
“We all need love !” – Usum, Erythrean refugee and nightclub owner in the Jungle refugee camp.